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As Mafia Claims Mount, Ex-Premier Seeks More Time for Defense

February 17, 1995

PALERMO, Sicily (AP) _ Shadowy Mafia figures were the first to claim they enjoyed cozy ties with ex-Premier Giulio Andreotti. Now former political allies are accusing him of courting the mob.

Confronted by more than 1,400 pages of testimony from former members of Andreotti’s scandal-destroyed party, his lawyers asked to postpone a court hearing today that was to help a judge decide whether the seven-time premier should be indicted.

If the delay is granted as expected, it would be the second time in a month the hearing has been put off because of new claims against Andreotti.

If Andreotti is indicted, he would become the most senior statesman dragged into Italian courts on Mafia charges. Other former premiers have been implicated in the nation’s 3-year anti-corruption housecleaning, which has touched more than 3,000 business and political figures.

The charges by former Andreotti allies have dramatically reshaped the investigation into alleged ties between the Sicilian Mafia and the 76-year-old senator for life, who served as premier seven times between 1972 and 1992.

Up to now, the case had been built around the claims of Mafia turncoats, who Andreotti claims are fabricating charges as revenge for his crackdowns on crime families. He dismissed them as liars and killers.

But prosecutors contend the new testimony by members of the now-defunct Christian Democrats party has added depth and credibility to the allegations. The party dominated Italian politics from World War II until it was destroyed by corruption scandals last year.

``We are seeing the truth about the Mafia-political alliance,″ said Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando, who has led protests against the Mafia.

Some former Christian Democrat members began this week to bombard prosecutors with alleged details of how the Sicilian Mafia infiltrated every level of the party over 50 years.

Andreotti, they claim, developed close bonds with some mob bosses and one mobster called him ``Uncle Giulio.″

The first and so far most comprehensive claims came from Gioacchino Pennino, a former Christian Democrat city councilor in Palermo. Prosecutors report that Pennino sketched out the alleged links between Andreotti and Mafia clans.

Pennino claimed the mediator was Salvo Lima, a European parliament member and close friend of Andreotti. Lima was killed in 1992 by suspected Mafia assassins.

One of the party’s former senators, Vincenzo Inzerillo, was taken into custody Wednesday and has reportedly corroborated some of Pennino’s claims.

A former Christian Democrat Cabinet member, Calogero Mannino, was arrested this week on Mafia charges and was questioned Thursday.

Giancarlo Caselli, the chief prosecutor in Palermo, said the Mafia’s influence on politics was ``at a level no one imagined.″

Andreotti recently launched a media blitz to counter the charges and try to save his reputation. ``What will they find? Nothing,″ Andreotti said.

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